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Days 40 & 41: The Middle of It All

Forty days and forty nights. Now we really know the length of the flood. Viscerally.

We slept in on Day 40 because the Wichita bike shops didn't open until 10am. Our Warm Showers host recommended The Bicycle Pedaler and even texted the owner, Ruth, to let her know we were headed her way. Ruth's shop is wonderful, and she and her people were really good to us. After 1500+ miles, she listened to the fact that I've been getting a really sore upper back and neck after longer distances, and looked at my bike fit with me. It seems like I've been reaching too far, and so Ruth recommended a shorter stem. I'm always nervous about committing to changes like that too quickly — it's near impossible for me to tell anything more subtle about fit after just riding a bike a couple of times around the parking lot. But I think she was right. I have been leaning way over, and the new stem seems like a good idea. Now, if only I could figure out how to keep my hands from falling asleep.

We spent a couple of hours getting everything all set at The Bicycle Pedaler, and didn't get all packed up and on the road till the afternoon. Mornings are by far our preferred time to ride, but sometimes there's no choosing. So we sunscreened up and rolled west towards downtown Wichita before turning north.

A long Wichita bike path that runs underneath the highway. Neat!

It wasn't a long ride, though it was a bit of a rough one for me. These past couple of days have just been tough. The horrors of the debates. The weariness of the road. The endless emergencies we're living through. Feeling the low ebb of being smack in the middle of such a huge endeavor. And, personally, I've been battling hormones, too. I can tell that I'm waiting for a second wind — some new burst of energy and hope and ability. In the meantime, there are plenty of times when I feel like maybe I can't do this thing. But. We ride on.

Fortunately, we were riding towards yet more amazing Warm Showers hosts — and also towards the cat equivalent of Orson Welles.

Tiger will see you now.

Besides being the honorable caretakers of the truly prodigious Tiger, Janet and Orvin are an extraordinary couple who live in a wild old Victorian home that they've been working on restoring for almost forty years. It's an 1885 Queen Anne, and they also own the equally fascinating and museum-like house next door (built in 1912). When we arrived, Janet gave us a tour of both. She fed us tons of spaghetti and put us up on a comfy pull-out sofa. And she told us stories of her family's many adventures. Example: Several years ago, they all biked from Kansas to Alaska! Well, Orvin and the boys biked, while Janet "rode" her "thirteen passenger quadra-cycle" — a giant red support van. Thanks to Janet and Orvin, we were well fed and cared for on the fortieth night of our journey — and we also now know how to correctly pronounce "Newfoundland." ("It's like understand.")

Day 41 began with more FOOD. Janet and Orvin took us to The Breadbasket and we hit the road full of delicious sticky buns and French toast. We knew we were in need of a rest day, and so we headed for Hutchinson, where the TransAm map told us of a cycling hostel in the Zion Lutheran Church. It's funny how—depending on the day, the wind, the mood—40 miles can feel tough or feel like no big deal. Today, thankfully, our 43-ish miles passed pretty quickly. And the winds were kinder to us — we even got a smidgen of actual tailwind when we turned south towards Hutchinson. Miracle!

No strawberries, but fields forever.

Even after a short-ish riding day, we were pleased and ready to arrive at the hostel. It's been a while (since Kentucky?) since we've seen a church hostel, and this is a lovely one, with actual beds in curtained off "rooms", a shower, a kitchen, and even TVs and a DVD selection. We hit up a grocery store, made ourselves guacamole and fajitas (oh, it's nice to cook!), and watched The Princess Bride. Tomorrow, we rest.

Day 40: Andover to Newton, KS, 39 miles, 975 feet of climbing, 2 wild houses, 1 Incredible Hulk Cat. Wait wait wait, here's another picture I mean come on:


Day 41: Newton to Hutchinson, KS, 43.8 miles, 850 feet of climbing, a real bed, some real food, a break on the horizon.

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